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Nell Lancaster

There was almost no progressive activism on campus in the late Carter and Reagan years

This is simply not true. The anti-apartheid / South Africa divestment campaigns and the movement to stop U.S. intervention in Central America were very strong on campuses in the 1980s.

Nell L.

Sorry, hit 'post' too soon. I was going to continue: Maybe students involved in those issues didn't go on to staff the big world o' nonprofits, but they were a significant activist force.

Kos's self-reported behavior struck me as rude and arrogant. There's someone who needs more than bridges...


Wait, that's not how you pronounce Nicaragua?

Nell Lancaster

It would be a good idea for the Center for Community Change, and any nonprofit, to list their board (and ideally also staff) on the website in the 'about us' section.

Transparency, and all that...

EJ Graff

The big exception is the LGBT rights movement, which has been very successful over the past twenty years, and which has women and men of every age coming up through our communities, both in social life and in political activities. In fact, urban LGBT communities are more like churches than anything else in the progressive movement, in offering personal insight, social life, and political networks. (It's quite different outside of urban areas.) See my article on this in The American Prospect (http://www.prospect.org/print/V13/19/graff-e.html).


Oooh, I don't know that I'd be putting the GLBT community up for a model. After my anthropological experience of a straight man involved in a GLBT issue last year, I think there's as much or more of a generational divide in the various sub-communities of the broader GLBT community as in any other "movement." Maybe the divides are less in the urban communities, but my experience was that folks carried very different assumptions and outlooks based upon their age and the social circumstances surrounding how they came out. I'll grant that there's a greater sense of overall solidarity, a sense of "we're all in this together," but there are huge generational (and class) differences.

And while Nell has a point about apartheid, as someone from that "missing" generation, in general I agree with Mark. Even in the 1970's a lot of people got involved in the Nader orgs or with ACORN and the like, but by the early-1980's, community organizing had declined, and the political and social organizing (other than ACT-UP type organizing) wasn't directed toward domestic concerns as much as "expressing solidarity" with people on other parts of the globe.

One thing I'd add to Mark's piece--one of the reason that 40 year olds aren't in a lot of those positions is that when they were 23 the jobs that today go to 23 year-old activists were still being held by 29 year-olds. There just weren't as many opportunities open to people in their early 20's, so they didn't get into that organizing and foundation world.

Mark, now you've got my mind racing on about five other lines of thought. Great post.


Where does that leave those of us who feel incomplete doing one (policy) without the other (community organizing)?

Shaun O Mac

Great blog, if you would be so kind to consider an appearance at some point on my radio show I would appreciate it.

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Jim Hansen

Good observations, Mark. However, as one who has worked on the state level in the west on both policy and grassroots activism -- and one of those "bridge generation" folks you speak of -- I see a lot more connecting between the generations way out here. It is happening of necessity because we're in an area of the country that is largely ignored by national organizations.

State level activists in states have been written off as "too conservative" for our national sisters and brothers to care about, have our hands full figuring out who should fill what role now and what organizational vehicles we need to build to make it work better. There is an amazing mix of people who don't fit the generational stereotypes. The "where's my issue" thinking is a luxury we can't afford to indulge. There's too much to do and we've come up with some pretty creative ways of doing it on a shoe string.


Interesting post. I'm still stuck on something trivial, though: how would one pronounce "Nicaragua" without a hard C? I think you were trying to poke fun at a certain kind of leftist who makes a thing of saying the names of Latin American countries with a Spanish accent (which I do find kind of annoying, since those folks don't say "Paree" or "Moskva")... but it's only the vowels and the R that are different.


Eli B,

I think Mark was gently poking fun at the provincialism of an older generation who stuggled to pronounce the name of a country they had never heard of. If memory serves (I was in my teens in the early '80s), "Nicaragua" was indeed occasionally mispronounced this way as Americans were rapidly introduced to this country and its troubles . There was quite the learning curve over Iranian names in that era as well. You could watch the news anchors' pronunciation evolve from night to night.

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